At A Glance
As of September 2015, 713 members of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB) had access to affordable, healthy foods at a new farmers’ market in Petoskey, Michigan. Some LTBB members in this area live up to 10 miles away from a grocery store. Lack of access to affordable, healthy foods may make it harder to have a diet that protects against serious chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. With support from the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, LTBB members can now shop for healthy produce close to home.
Public Health Challenge
The need to increase access to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables is particularly great in tribal communities. In Michigan, nearly 62% of American Indian/Alaska Native adults have obesity or are overweight. Obesity can increase risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers (e.g., breast, colon, kidney), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A healthy diet, along with regular physical activity, can help lower risks for developing obesity. One study found that only 24% of men and 33% of women in the American Indian population ate five or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables. In addition, many American Indian communities are in food deserts—low-income areas with limited access to grocery stores. This lack of access to healthier foods makes it harder for tribal communities to have a healthy diet.
To improve access to fresh, affordable produce, LTBB teamed up with Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan to open a farmers’ market in Petoskey, Michigan. The two groups promoted the market through the tribe’s monthly newsletter, website, electronic mailing list, and other social media outlets. They also handed out flyers in central community locations. The new farmers’ market ran every Sunday for 16 weeks, making it easier for community members to shop and eat healthy where they live. Common items included tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, herbs, apples, cherries, potatoes, and chard.